The Bicycle is the Official Vehicle of the Edited Life
We know there are many parts of the world where driving is extremely impractical, and we are not here to begrudge the multitudes for whom that is a reality. But make no mistake about it, no mode of transportation gets you around more effectively, efficiently and with minimal overhead than bicyling.
Consider the passenger mile per gallon of various modes of transport as a function of caloric energy expended over distance:
Nothing beside subways comes even close to a bicycle’s efficiency. But not everyone has a subway system in their area. And, as recent events are showing, even those who have great subway systems can be left at the mercy of repairs.
Then consider the sheer area consumed by bikes versus other modes of transport. The picture at top shows 50 people and 50 cars at left, 50 people and a bus in the center and 50 people standing by 50 bicycles at right. It’s a great illustration how cars make cities more crowded and cast suburbs further afield.
Biking may even reduce your personal area as a 150 lb bicycle commuters riding at 12-14 mph for 30 minutes burns 297 calories during his or her commute.
And even though walking takes the minimal volume prize, the 250% increase of efficiency compared to a slight increase in volume make bicycling a no-brainer for commutes longer than a mile.
Other benefits of ditching your car for a bike include avoiding costly car registration, repairs, insurance and fuel. An added bonus is that traffic becomes a thing of the past. Ridding yourself of managing these annoying details makes life simpler and happier.
So maybe you are considering commuting to work or doing more errands on your bike, but something is stopping you. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:
- Get a bike you will ride. Some people think the Salvation Army is a bike shop. It’s not. Consider how much you will save by driving less, go to an actual bike shop, find something that fits your body and riding style and invest accordingly.
- Get some bike friendly clothes. We talk about Outlier a lot here, but there are many other commuter-friendly clothes out there such as Betabrand and even Levi’s that work too. It’s best to have clothes that are both durable and permit movement necessary to pedal.
- Get full fenders. Unless you live in the desert, you will deal with rain at some point. Few things are as gross as dealing with road grime all over your clothes after a light shower. Nothing helps avoid that like a set of wraparound fenders. Clip-on versions will work in some cases, but often leave you unprotected. When buying a new bike, make sure the frame is compatible with fenders.
- Learn how to take care of your bike. Get regular tuneups. Have a good floor pump. Get some decent chain lube (i.e. not WD40). Learn how to fix a flat (it’s not that hard). Many people avoid riding because they are afraid something will go wrong–it might! Learn how to deal with the situation rather than avoid it.
- Be flexible. Riding three out of five days is better than not riding at all. If there’s a blizzard, it’s okay to take public transport or drive. Going from two cars to one makes a big difference too. The key is just start riding!
Graph statistics by James Strickland, 2009